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A Christmas Walk

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2.

The room phone rang loudly in my ear. I rolled over and grabbed the receiver.
"Hello?" I mumbled groggily.
"Autumn?" I heard a mans voice on the other end.
"Speaking." I was still half a sleep and didn't understand what was going on.
"It's Ryan," my eyes flung open. "I'm just calling everyone to remind them that breakfast is at 8:30, then we have practice." I sat up in bed and smacked Savannah behind me. She was spread out like a starfish on our bed, like normal. "I hope you didn't forget." He sounded slightly disappointed, I hated when he did that.
"No, no. Of course not." I assured him, but we had forgotten. Me included, which wasn't like me.
"Okay, great. See you shortly." I glanced at the clock. It was 8:12. I sighed and hung up the phone. Savannah was still dead weight in our bed. She surprisingly could get ready the fastest of all of us. Michelle took the longest by far. I grabbed her shoulder and shook her.
"Get up!" She moaned. "We have to leave for breakfast in 10 minutes." I said loudly. Her eyes shot open.
"You're lying." I shook my head.
"I just got off the phone with Ryan. If he hadn't called we'd be in some serious heat." She flung out of bed and immediately started to rifle through her suitcase. Vanessa was starting to stir. She didn't pay much attention to voices or sounds when she was asleep but the second she got cold she wakes up. I yanked the blankets from her.
"Give them back! I'm sleeping." She moaned.
"Get up, we have to be to breakfast and then to rehearsal in 10 minutes." She sighed heavily. Vanessa was never one to wake up quickly, she did better with coffee in her system. "Do you want me to pick you out and outfit?" She nodded her head and clung to her pillow. I could see the goosebumps appear on her legs. I grabbed Vanessas bag and picked out a pair of half leggings and a tank top. I threw them at her. "Hurry up before Michelle finds an outfit." Michelle was still digging in her suitcase. I grabbed my black half leggings and a t-shirt I cut the sleeves off of. The holes I made were so big you could see my bra underneath. Vanessa stumbled to the bathroom to change. I fastened my bra and slid it up so I could change my shirt without giving Michelle a free show. Not that she was paying attention or anything. After that I ducked down on the floor to change my pants. I hated wearing underwear with leggings so I never did. I threw my pajamas on the bed. Pulling Savannah's huge suitcase on our bed, I almost laid it on her. I unzipped it and looked for an outfit. Vanessa came back out and jumped back into bed with her pajamas as a blanket. I rolled my eyes. Finally Michelle popped up and when into the bathroom. I glanced back at the clock. 8:23. We had 7 minutes until we needed to be down stairs eating breakfast, but I'm sure they won't mind a minute or two of lateness. I grabbed Savannah's favorite yoga pants and shirt combo and threw them at her. "Savannah!" I yelled at her. She started to move. I pulled the covers back. "Get up and get dressed we need to be at breakfast in five." She lazily opened her eyes.
"Did you," She stopped once she noticed the outfit laying on her. She gave me a soft smile and started to change. Savannah was ridiculously comfortable with her body, I wish I could be that way too. Michelle came out of the bathroom with her hair up in a bun and her outfit on.
"How do I look?"
"Perfect!" I said quickly. She could look like a tornado just came through and I'd still tell her perfect. She took forever and we didn't have the time. We each grabbed our dance bags, phones and hotel cards. We were out the door and on our way to breakfast. We walked into the lobby at 8:31, perfect.
"Good morning girls." Ryan smiled at us.
"Morning." I answered. Vanessa went straight for the coffee.
"Lot of partying last night?" Hannah, another dancer joked.
"No, actually. We walked around Baltaver most of the day. Meet new people, saw beautiful sights. Well worth being tired today." I smiled at her. It's not that Hannah and I didn't get along, her and I were just very competitive with one another. It could be tiresome at times, but she was mostly competitive with me and I just couldn't help myself.

After breakfast and more waking up with coffee, the dance troop went on a walk to our practice studio. It wasn't far for the hotel but in shorter athletics clothes it was cold, so it felt like forever.
"I can't believe we are getting to dance in the castle." Vanessa indulged. I wrapped my hair in a bun on the top of me head.
"Me either." Michelle agreed.
"Maybe I really will get to meet the Prince." Vanessa playfully bumped into me. I smiled. I was trying to not think about Prince William today but that didn't seem to be the case. I thought about him at breakfast and I'm thinking about him now. I better get my head in that dance studio and leave my thoughts of Prince William at the door. They can resume after rehearsal. We walked into the dark studio. The only light pouring in was between the cracks of the drapes hanging in front of the windows along the store front. Ryan flicked on the lights. They buzzed and hummed for a second then shined a piercing, white light. Most of us moaned at the sight of these lights.
"Alright ladies, lets try on our outfits first to make sure everything fits properly and then rehearsal." Ryan had a huge phobia of us wearing our outfits prior to the show. He was scared one of us would bust a seam or rip off a ruffle. He also hates the thought of them getting dirty before they had the be, he was a bit of a neat freak. We kept the curtains up so we could change in the open room. None of us we wearing tights right now so it wasn't the full look. "Autumn, Hannah, can I have you two help me hand out the outfits?" We nodded.

After everyone had done one last fitting and showed Ryan, we were allowed to pack them back up and set them aside. We pulled open the curtains and let in the sunlight. It felt weird to be a show to anyone walking by. This show was supposed to be held at the castle for the King, Queen and the rest of the royal family, not in a random dance studio for the general public of Baltaver. I just secretly hoped that Prince William wasn't out and about doing whatever it was he was doing yesterday. If he were to walk by the studio, I think I would try and hide but who knows, I might just freeze in place. I watched the people walk back and forth in the mirror. It almost felt like I was in a fishbowl.

The dance was mostly ballet with a little twist of fast past dancing. I wouldn't quite call if jazz or hip hop. We were to do three dances with no outfit changes, only slight modifications. Like taking away a skirt and adding a coat and hat. We had been working on this since July. We knew we were going to be doing a Christmas show but we didn't know when and where. Maybe Ryan knew but I highly doubt it, he wasn't very good at keeping a secret. Pamela was though. Pam was sort of the brains behind this studio. Sure, we were small but we got to do some incredible things. We've gotten to tavel to Spain for a competition last summer and all over the United States. We did many competitions (and won), they were our income. We'd been in music videos, competitions, shows and other odd and end things. This was the biggest thing we'd ever done. We usually had to pay for all our own outfits but most of the time we were reimbursed. This was still a full time job for all of us. I sometimes helped Pam with marketing and Hannah sometimes helped Ryan with choreographing. Hannah and I were sort of interns for Ryan and Pam. We were a weird duo just like Ryan and Pam.
"Alright ladies, lets get warm." We all found spots on the floor to stretch and warm up on. Then we'd fall into formation for our first song.

After three full run throughs we were set free! By this time we were all starving since it was nearly noon and we had been working so hard. We all agreed on going out to lunch.
"Where should we go?" Gina asked.
"What's around here?" Hannah grabbed her bag off the floor. Pam and Ryan talked off in a corner, they were coming to eat with us but they never cared where we ate. They always told us to decided amongst ourselves, so we did.
"I want a burger." Tina said openly.
"God, that sounds good." My mouth started to water. She smiled at me. A few of us girls hard hearty appetites, the rest of them could live off kale and fruit smoothies. Luckily, my core group had a hearty appetite.
"So what has burgers and salads?" Vanessa asked.
"We could go to a bar?"
"Absolutely not!" Ryan yelled. We all looked at him. "No drinking before the day of a performance, you know that." He scolded us.
"Were just looking for some where to eat." Hannah assured him.
"Try some where else." Some of us sighed a little.
"Hey, there is a local restaurant up the road. They have burgers, salads, pasta, and chicken. Want to go?" Becky was looking at her phone, I'm assuming at maps and a menu. We all agreed that would be the best place. We all grabbed our bags and headed up the road some more.
"Why can't we drink?" Savannah whispered.
"Come on, you know. Don't you remember hearing stories of Rachel D.?" She shook her head. I glanced around the find Ryan, he was all the way in the back with Pam. The four of us huddled close. "Well, she went out drinking the night before a performance and got pretty drunk. Not only was she hung over but she puked on stage. It really set Ryan and Pam back."
"Yikes. I get it now."
"Can you imagine?" Vanessa's mind wondered. "One of your employees shows up drunk and then pukes on stage. Gross! Was she fired?"
"Sort of. She was checked into rehab since she had a drinking problem but soon quit after being in the program. She was mad at Ryan and Pam for sending her."
"Wow, tough break." Michelle crossed her arms over her chest.
"Is it getting colder out?" Savannah complained. I laughed weakly.
"No, our sweats just drying."

After lunch we had the day free. Ryan did highly suggest taking the time off to relax, Savannah, Vanessa, Michelle and I took that advice. When we got back to the room we all showered. I was last since I didn't mind waiting. Vanessa and Savannah battled who got to go first. Vanessa won rock, paper, scissors. She grabbed her pajamas and went into the bathroom.
"She always wins." Savannah complained.
"Then why play rock, paper, scissors?"
"What else would we use?" She looked back at me.
"Sticks and stones?"
"How could I forget that?" I shrugged my shoulders. We used to use that as the deciding factor all the time as kids. Sometimes it took a few tries but they went by fairly quickly. I leaned back onto my pillows.
"As much as I want to see more of Baltaver, I'm glad to be doing nothing for the rest of the day." Savannah moaned in agreement.
"Could you imagine walking all that we did yesterday again today?" Michelle thought out loud. "I think my feet would fall off." I laughed and rolled my head to look at her. She was sitting at the end of her bed playing a game on her phone. The clock on the nightstand read just before 3:30. I sighed and settled in more. Vanessa came out of the bathroom, she was pretty quick to shower. Especially since she never washed her hair before a performance. She claims in makes her buns let's put together, whatever that meant. Savannah popped up like she had just sprung from a toaster. Vanessa crawled into her side of the bed.
"I'm ready for a nap." I laughed.
"I think we all are." I agreed with her.
"You look like you're about to fall asleep." I smiled faintly.
"I very well could." She leaned over and grabbed the remote.
"What should we watch."
"The news!" Michelle looked up.
"Why? That's boring." Vanessa companied.
"No it's not! We're in a different country, they have totally different news stories here." I think that had the be Michelle's most boring quality, her love for the news. Michelle didn't need a man in her life, she had the news. She was either reading it on her phone or watching it on TV wherever we went. She wanted to watch the new in Spain but thank god it's in Spanish and Savannah refused to translate. The little that she did 'translate' she made up random stuff just to annoy Michelle.
"We're not watching the news." I agreed. "I'm not trying to fall sleep right now."
"God, please not the news." Savannah agreed as she walked out of the bathroom. "You're up anyways." I grabbed my book of the nightstand. It would give me something to focus on instead falling asleep and TV was never really my speed. I could hear Savannah and Vanessa talking about what they were going to watch but I tuned them out. I had brought three books to read while we were here. I liked to read on the plane sometimes and before bed. Books were my TV. I think it was one of the few times I was creative. I could paint the picture the author was describing, I loved that. I also loved the places I could go and the people I met in these books. It incredible what words on a page can do.
"Autumn!" They said in unison snapping me from my reading. I looked up at them both. They both looked mildly annoyed with the other.
"What?"
"We can't decide what to watch." Vanessa whined.
"Play sticks and stone and figure it out for yourselves. Or one of you gets to pick the first show and the other picks the second and you can take turns." I sometimes felt like such a babysitter for all three of these girls. I loved them, dearly but these little quarrels drove me insane.

Savannah picked the first show, Vanessa picked the second and Michelle petitioned for the news after. We all agreed that it wasn't going to happen. After my shower I blow dried my hair, I hated the feeling of wet hair on dry clothing, it was an uncultured feeling for me. I came back out into the room and by this time it was just after 5.
"What are we going to do for dinner?" I asked everyone.
"Take out?" Vanessa suggested.
"How about room service so we don't have to go to the lobby and wait for it?" Michelle added. We all nodded in agreement.
"When do we want to order?" They shrugged their shoulders. I knew I'd be the one ordering so it all kind of fell on me. "Well I'm going to call down and ask for a menu." I picked up the phone and hit the front desk button. The phone only rang for a second.
"Hello, this is Morgan how can I help you?"
"Yes, hi. Can I have a room service menu or two brought up to room 304?"
"Of course. Someone should be there shortly."
"Great, thanks." I smiled. I don't know why, it's not like she could see me. I think it was a placebo effect of making my voice sound nicer. Only a few short minutes later someone was knocking at our door. "I'll get it." I crawled out of bed and went to the door. Morgan, the girl from the front desk stood outside our door with two room service menus. I knew it was her because of her name tag. "Thank you." I smiled at her.
"My please."
"Have a goodnight." I closed the door. "Alright ladies, what do we want?" I handed both menus to the room since I could eat about anything. Michelle and Savannah were surprisingly the pickiest eaters of all of us, and they weren't really that picky. I crawled back into my spot and picked up my book again. After passing the menus around we all figured out what we wanted to eat. I was going to order after I finished this chapter. A polite knock came at the door. Michelle was already up to get water so she answered the door. I heard the door unlatch and some muffled words. I had assumed it was one of the other girls.
"Um Autumn, door?" She said hastily into the room. I chopped my bookmark between the pages I was on.
"We haven't even ordered room service, yet." I crawled out of bed confused. I wrapped my robe around me and looked up. "Prince William."
"Call me Hayes, please." He glanced over my outfit. I was in a pair of yoga pants and an old tank top.
"Uh, what can I do for you, your highness." I was massively flustered.
"Would you like to go for a walk? I could really use the company."
"Now?" He nodded. "Uh, sure. Let me grab my jacket. Come in." He stepped inside. I had never noticed how small hotel rooms were until now. Maybe that's because I've never had the Prince of Baltaver stand in my room.

We went for a walk around the hotel courtyard. It had a lot of beautiful landscaping.
"How did you find me?" He smiled and his cheeks turned pink.
"I'm a royal, I have my ways." I laughed.
"Rights." I said softly.
"How many of you are in that room?" He inquired.
"Four of us girls."
"Four?" He seemed surprised.
"Yeah?"
"That's a lot of girls." I chuckled a little.
"I guess, we're used to it though."
"Do you all travel together a lot?"
"Yeah, I guess so." I nodded.
"Well, what do you do?"
"I'm not telling you." I smiled.
"Well are you at least here on business?" I nodded.
"I am."
"Do you work with those other three." I smiled, he was quite nosy.
"Yeah."
"Well how long are you in Baltaver for?"
"Only five days."
"That's not very long." I smiled a little.
"No, no it's not." I stuck my hands in my pocket. "Oh!" I pulled out the bags of candy I bought at Abigail's. I gave Prince Hayes one. He laughed a little.
"These were my favourite as a child." I nodded.
"I know, Abigail told me."
"So you went back to the tea shop?" He opened the bag of candy with ease. I was still struggling with me.
"Mm, just next door." He grabbed my bag and switched it with his. "Thank you." I said softly.
"So what else did Abigail tell you?" I ate a candy. The outside was crunchy but the inside was chewy like a gummy. They bursted with flavor. I had never had anything like this.
"These are really good!" He smiled.
"That's why they were my favourite." I watched my feet tread in the snow.
"Abigail also told me that you're a very private person and don't go out much."
"That's true." He nodded.
"She told me that you used to go to her shop almost every week."
"Also true." He laughed.
"Abigail said you are in line for the throne soon."
"A couple of years, but yes, some would say that's soon."
"She also told me that you have done charity events for the kingdom, especially for your father. She mentioned that you are very popular with the ladies but there is no future queen on your arm?"
"Well," Prince Hayes ate another candy without thought, like it was something he did every day. "It seems like Abigail didn't lie to you at all."
"Why? Did you pay her to?" He smiled.
"I have to sheepishly admit, I haven't gone in, in many years."
"Why not?" I glanced at him.
"I'm not a child anymore." I stopped.
"Your point?"
"Well she has things for tourist and children" he gestured to the candy in his hand. "and I am neither of those." I pointed at him.
"You need to restore your youth." I almost scolded.
"Restore my youth? I'm not 80."
"Well you might as well be!" The corners of his mouth turned up with a smile.
"What?"
"Just because you're not six anymore doesn't mean you can't have fun and enjoy life."
"I enjoy my life!" I started to walk again.
"Then tell me, when is the last time you had these? Or had fun?" He looked at me for a moment.
"I couldn't tell you." He sounded defeated.
"Then you're not enjoying life."
"I'm a Prince, I have rules to follow." Prince Hayes said slowly.
"Every one breaks the rules sometimes." I glanced at him.
"Not royalty." He assured me.
"All the more reason for you to live a little." He looked more over with a soft smile. I felt my cheeks grow warm.

For a walk in a hotel courtyard it was beautiful. I loved the lights and the trees. Everything was beautifully decorated. It made me miss decorating the tree with my dad and Jenny. Our tree would be cover in ornaments that told my life story and really cheap tinsel that we always regret putting up since it gets everywhere. We would always decorate the tree, eat roast beef and sugar cookies. Every year. It was tradition, I'm sad to be missing it this year.
"I hate to be the one to end this because this is surprisingly beautiful, but I'm exhausted and I have a long day tomorrow." Prince Hayes smiled.
"Of course. Let me walk you to your room."
"It's not necessary."
"Trying to get rid of me again?" I laughed.
"Not yet." I smiled at him for a moment. "Let's compromise, walk me to the elevator?" Hayes smiled.
"I can do that."
"Do you need to call your royal carriage?" I joked.
"No, they always wait for me."
"Fancy."
"It's actually quiet annoying, I always feel rushed."
"Well," I glanced at him. Hayes looked nice tonight but I think the strung up Christmas lights made him look better. "It's better to be waited for than to be waiting around by yourself."
"I don't know if I agree."
"I'm surprised to hear that."
"Why because I'm a royal? I know what my standards say, but that's not always what I believe in." I smile down at my boots as we enter the lobby. I stomped my feet to get the snow off.
"That's good to know." Prince Hayes smiled at me.
"Thank you for the company."
"Thank you for inviting me." I pressed the up button on the outside the elevator.
"Goodnight Autumn."
"Goodnight Prince William."
"It's Hayes."
"Prince Hayes." I corrected myself.
"It's just Hayes, no need for the Prince." I stepped back into the open doors.
"Goodnight Hayes." Licking my lips slowly I could still faintly taste the candies. The elevator door closed. I sighed. What just happened?!

I unlocked the hotel door and slowly opened it. Part of my hoped the girls would be asleep or out but I knew better than that.
"Where did you meet Prince William of Baltaver?" Savannah belted out as I walked in the door. It almost like they had been waiting by the door for me.
"Hello girls." I rolled my eyes.
"We have questions and you have answers!" Michelle pressed. I sighed as I fell back onto my bed.
"Can we talk about it tomorrow?" I moaned as I stretched out. I didn't bother to take of my jacket, I was still a little cold.
"No!" They all snapped in unison.
"Fine, what do you want to know?" They all bombarded me with questions. I held my hand up to stop them. "One at a time?"
"Where did you meet him?" Savannah asked again. I felt my face grow warm.
"He was the local who showed me where the fountain was. I went into that tea shop you guys went into yesterday and he was the only one inside."
"That's because they are supposed to get the places to themselves!" I nodded.
"I've heard."
"Is that why you didn't flirt with him?" Michelle blurted out. I nodded again.
"Why did he come ask you for a walk?" Vanessa scooted closer. I shrugged my shoulders.
"I don't know. He said he could use the company."
"Of you?"
"I guess? I don't know." I felt a little annoyed and almost attacked.
"Well is there something between you two?" Vanessa questioned me. I thought about the way he looked at me. I'd like to say yes but I think it's just the Christmas lights and that I'm a little drowsy.
"No, I don't think so."
"Are you going to see him again?" I started to take my jacket off.
"Tomorrow, yeah." They all squealed.
"After the show?" I shook my head.
"No, at the show." They all turned their heads. "But I haven't told him that." I trialed off. Michelle hit me.
"You didn't tell him!"
"No!"
"Why not?!"
"Because, I'm working for his family, are you nuts?"
"You're not his servant or maid, you're doing a Christmas performance for the royal family!" I looked between the three of them.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore, I want to go to bed. We have breakfast at 8:30 again tomorrow." They all saddened. I threw my jacket on the floor and climbed into bed. No one said a word. They all climbed into bed and turned off the lights. Savannah and I were facing each other.
"I think you should give yourself more credit for who you are." She whispered.
"I don't want to talk about it, Savannah." I whispered back.
"I know, I just," she paused. "I just wish you'd stop being your own road block." I huffed and rolled over. I stared Vanessa, she was looking back at me. I could feel my eyes start to well up with tears. I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled the blankets up higher. I just wanted the bed swallow me.
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